We are sharing stories about Johnny Crawford from his friends and fans. If you’d like to submit a story, please use the form on our Contact page. It can be about meeting Johnny, working with him, seeing him perform, or about how his work has touched your life.
by Janice Snyder (from Texas)
Many of the outdoor scenes in Indian Paint were shot near our house in north central Texas. One of my best friend’s acreage was used for a lot of the scenes. My friend’s dad was part Indian as well as being an excellent horse rider. He was chosen to be one of the extras in some scenes.
There was a riding arena near the filming area, and we used it for weeknight practice for the various games we played on horseback. One night I was there practicing, and Johnny rode right by me. I greeted him, and we spoke for awhile. He gave me his autograph, and I was in teenage heaven for months after that.
Bridging the Gap
by Stephanie Kanoun (in Connecticut)
I was born to my parents late in life, so I never got to know my grandparents very well. One of my grandfathers had already passed on and the other developed dementia while I was young. When Poppop moved to a nursing home, I started feeling a sense of loss—that I would never know the things that a grandfather would teach you. Then I noticed the shows that he often watched in the nursing home. And I asked my dad what Poppop watched growing up. I thought maybe if I watched the things from his past, maybe I’d learn the things he would have said to me. I watched Andy Griffith, and Bonanza, and The Rifleman. The Rifleman immediately stood out to me and couldn’t get enough of it. I loved Lucas and Mark and I loved learning about Chuck and Johnny. I joined the Rifleman forum group and found a wonderful, loving online community to discuss the show and many other things. I listened to Johnny’s music and watched many of the shows he guest starred in.
All of my grandparents have now passed on, but I don’t feel lacking anymore. The creative works of Johnny (and so many others) have taught me valuable lessons that I can now carry and teach to my young family. Thank you, Johnny! <3
by Nancy Hovey (from Burbank and now Idaho)
The Crawford brothers kept their horses at Fred Bales Stables in Burbank. Johnny would train his horse in the arena there. One of my girlfriends kept her horse at the stables and some other girls I met at Fred Bales also had horses there, or at their nearby houses. I rode double with a lot of them. One friend of mine, in the weekly group I rode with, asked Johnny to go with her on a hayride we were having. He accepted, so she told him it was on Saturday night and gave him the time. Well, he wasn’t there on time, so our hayride started. My friend started to get all excited when from behind, a horse was galloping towards us with two fellows on it. Johnny was on the back of the horse, and when the horse got alongside our wagon, he reached out and jumped on! He kept his promise to her!
That’s how both Johnny and Bobby were. They were both very approachable. Every weekend I would hang out at the stables. One Saturday, we were having one of our Corral 17 horse shows (a lot of us were members, including Johnny). I’d seen Bobby ride in some of the shows on his horse Troy. On this particular day, I was standing at the end of the arena when Bobby rode over on Troy, and I guess he figured out that I didn’t have my own horse. He started talking to me and told me that before he got Troy he used to rent a horse named Glory from the stables he boarded at. She was a good horse. This meant so much to me, that a Crawford had a kind enough heart to give me this information. I usually just said hi to them and vice versa. This conversation with Bobby meant so much to me. I wish he knew how much it meant to me back then. I was probably 13 and now I am 72 but I’ll never forget his kind gesture! Those brothers were raised right. Do unto others as you would want them to do to you! My heart aches to think that Johnny might not remember those days.
Johnny is a very multi-talented cowboy. When I talked to him about 4 years ago on the phone, he told me that the feeling you get when sliding off your horse to reach for a steer’s horns is the best feeling ever. I was hoping to get him here for The Snake River Stampede held in July of each year, which is a PRCA Rodeo. He was already booked for something else. He said he would rather come here if he could. As it was getting close to the rodeo, the Board of Directors weren’t able to get a sponsor for him. They tried very hard, though. When I was talking to Johnny about the rodeo one day, he asked me if I knew of Dean Oliver, a many time All-Around Champion who Johnny said he heard was from Boise. Dean was inducted into 7 different halls of fame. I found out he was on the Board of Directors for the Stampede. Turns out the idol of many teenage girls had an idol, named Dean Oliver! I just never realized that idols have idols also!
Later, my family moved to Shadow Hills in Sunland. I was about 15 then. I joined Corral 20 which held monthly horse shows at Hansen Dam. My next-door neighbor had about 4 or 5 horses at any time that I could ride. Anyway, at those horse shows, Robert Fuller entered in some of them for the cow hide race. They would tie a cow hide (on the ground) to a rider’s saddle horn. When the rider galloped to the other end of the arena, the other person (in this case Bob) would grab the rope and jump to lay down on the cow hide and be pulled around the arena. It looked like fun but dangerous also. I saw him on a few occasions.
One other thing that Johnny did for me was when I was 12. I really think Carmen Dirigo (Hollywood hairstylist and president of Corral 17) may have gotten in touch with him to make this happen. My hip fell apart, and I was in St. Joseph’s Hospital for 2 weeks. When I received my mail one day, there was a large-size postcard from Johnny, sent from a personal appearance tour he was on in Hawaii! It made my day!
A Treasure to Me
by M. Stacey Shaffer (site administrator & DVD team member)
I remember watching The Rifleman reruns occasionally growing up, and I was always drawn to the sensitive son and his relationship with his father, rather than the gun play. My Johnny Crawford story really began the summer of 1985, when my friend’s grandmother gave us her season tickets to a matinee of Of Mice And Men at the San Diego Old Globe Theatre. I remember looking through the program and being pleasantly surprised that Johnny Crawford was in the cast. The play was very good, with Johnny effectively menacing and spoiled as Curley.
In late 2011, I started watching MeTV, revisiting some favorite programs from my childhood. The many showings each week of The Rifleman drew me in, and I started doing research on the cast and guest actors. Soon I joined the forum at RiflemanConnors.com and started listening to Johnny’s dance band recordings. I made one of my first YouTube videos using screen captures of Mark McCain, set to the Del-Fi recording of “Treasure.” I emailed the link to Johnny, and he sent me a delightful reply:
“It’s so very sweet of you to make this video of that young man I used to know. He still visits me once in a while. Thank you. You’re an angel to me.” — Johnny
Once I’d seen every episode of The Rifleman on repeat, I decided to check out older brother Bobby’s western, Laramie. I enjoyed it very much, especially the early seasons. I joined Robert Fuller’s fan group, making lots of new friends around the world.
In March 2013, I attended Festival of the West in Arizona, where Johnny, Bobby, and Robert Fuller were celebrity guests. I liked Bobby immediately and didn’t want to leave his table. Johnny was so sweet, taking such care over what to write on the 8×10 I got from him: “You’re a treasure to me.” Both he and Bobby signed the Del-Fi 45 record of “Good Buddies” that I brought, which I have in a frame here on my desk. What I especially enjoyed was watching Bobby watch Johnny interact with fans at their adjoining tables. Johnny always had a long line, and Bobby always had a delightful smile, clearly enjoying the attention his brother was receiving.
I feel very fortunate to now be part of the Johnny Crawford Legacy team, working with Johnny’s family and friends. He inspired my first efforts at video making, and now I can use those skills (much improved, I hope) to help him now.
Johnny Crawford: Then and Now
by Wendy Byers (from Michigan)
The Rifleman was on TV when I was 7 years old. “That was then!” I was glued to the black & white screen as Mark would ride his horse, do chores, eat candy, and sometimes get into mischief, as most boys do! My eyes were on him on TV, teen magazines, comic books, and even a hardcover The Rifleman book. My bedroom had pictures plastered with Johnny!! Then my first Johnny Crawford record album was given to me as a gift from my mom, who loved the Big Bands from the 30s and 40s. Then another album and another!! Blasting Johnny on my old Arvin record player non-stop! Scrap books, singing with Johnny, impatiently waiting for the next teen magazines to be in stores—I had a great time loving Johnny! That was then.
Now I’m 69 years old, still love Johnny, but instead of teen magazines photos of him on my walls, I hang kids and grandkids….BUT….I have taken photos of pictures using my phone of—you know it—Johnny! So I have a nice photo collage of Johnny, Charlotte, Nance, and Bobby on my wall that I have taken from the internet. Plus I still blast my CDs of Johnny on my CD player! “This is now!”
I enjoy the Facebook groups for Johnny and wait patiently for Charlotte’s update each week. Yes, this is now. It is wonderful to see Johnny in different movies and TV shows. Johnny is a wonderful actor, from The Mickey Mouse Club, Wagon Train, The Big Valley, and all the many other shows he has been in. His Orchestra was and is a treat, and he’s so handsome in tails and top hat! I’m praying every day for Johnny and his lovely family. My husband Donnie is also in a nursing facility, for dementia, so I can certainly relate to Charlotte’s love and pain for her beloved Johnny. When I send Donnie cards…Johnny gets one, too!
❤️ Thank you for giving me the chance to share my then and now stories. Wendy Byers, a loyal friend and fan ❤️